More than just bratwurst: The best places to eat and drink in Milwaukee
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Milwaukee may not be the first place you think of when you look for a foodie city — but that needs to change.
As a native-born Midwesterner, I grew up going to Wisconsin on a semi-regular basis to visit family. And lately, I’ve been hearing Milwaukee touted for its up-and-coming food-and-drink scene.
So on a recent visit, I decided to scout out some new tastes of Milwaukee and discovered a great mixture of Central European fare, fine dining, breweries and dive bars scattered throughout the city.
I share my findings below — while not an exhaustive list of the best places to eat and drink, it should provide good inspiration for a delicious trip of your own.
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The best places to eat in Milwaukee
Milwaukee’s food scene is booming. You can find everything from bratwurst houses to fine dining and everything in-between. Here’s a look at a few places you should add to your Milwaukee itinerary.
Milwaukee Brat House
1013 N Old World 3rd St, Milwaukee, WI 53203
Craving a beer and bratwurst? Look no further than the appropriately named Milwaukee Brat House.
Landing somewhere between a bar and a restaurant, the Brat House actually takes some inspiration from McSorley’s Ale House in my home of New York City. Beers are served in two small mugs — a McSorley’s tradition – and McSorley’s memorabilia lines the walls of the restaurant’s interior. To be sure, this wasn’t what I expected during my first meal in Milwaukee (especially after a flight from NYC).
But the real star of the show is the large selection of bratwursts on the menu, all of which sound delicious. If you’re traveling with a friend, I recommend you split two of them (or just order two if you’re hungry). I was traveling solo and had a traditional bratwurst that was excellent.
The Brat House is also the perfect stop before a Milwaukee Brewers game. It’s close to the stadium and the restaurant offers a free shuttle to the game. Meaning you’ll save money on both stadium food and parking — it really doesn’t get much better than that.
Seating is plentiful both indoors and out at the Milwaukee location. You’ll find a second location in nearby Shorewood, Wisconsin.
Oggie’s at Hotel Metro
411 E Mason St, Milwaukee, WI 53202
I spent a night at downtown Milwaukee’s Hotel Metro, a Marriott property. I went to Oggie’s, the hotel’s on-site restaurant, as a part of my upcoming hotel review. Frankly, I was very impressed with it and recommend that you stop by regardless of whether you’re staying at Hotel Metro or not.
The restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner and serves a small menu of higher-end American cuisine. I had the brick chicken for dinner; it was cooked to perfection and the seasoned fries were excellent. Better yet, you can eat dinner for well under $30 per person.
I really liked the art-deco atmosphere and the service was great. If you want to dine during peak dinner hours, make a reservation on OpenTable before you stop by.
Margarita Paradise in the Public Market
400 N. Water St, Milwaukee, WI 53202
No trip to Milwaukee is complete without a stroll around the Public Market, a large indoor market with dozens of eateries, shops, delis, bars and cafes. I made a quick pitstop at the Public Market on my second day in Milwaukee and had dinner at its lone Mexican restaurant, Margarita Paradise.
While I didn’t order a margarita, I did have an enchiladas plate that was delicious and inexpensive. The staff was super nice and chatted with me about why I was visiting Milwaukee. Seating is limited, but it’s a great place to grab take-out to eat in a nearby park or from the comfort of your hotel room.
Third Coast Provisions
724 N Milwaukee St, Milwaukee, WI 53202
If you’re looking for seafood, check out Third Coast Provisions in downtown Milwaukee, a contemporary oyster bar that specializes in pairing cocktails and beer with seafood dishes. It has a vast raw bar menu, a slew of shared plates and entrees.
I didn’t have a chance to eat here during my most recent Milwaukee visit, but it’s at the top of my list for the next time in town due to its enthusiastic reviews and incredible-looking menu. Plus, its super modern atmosphere would make it a great option for a business meeting, date night or a special occasion.
Bonus: Check out The Best Place for coffee
917 W Juneau Ave, Milwaukee, WI 53233
I love coffee and make a point to check out local coffee shops when traveling to a new city. After spending my first night in Milwaukee at the Brewhouse Inn & Suites in the old PBR brewery, I took a stroll around the Brewery District and came across Best Place — a quaint coffee shop.
I had a cortado that was delicious and worked out of the cafe for a couple of hours in the morning. The Wi-Fi was fast and the atmosphere was great. You’ll find stained glass artwork on the windows, old PBR signs and even a small gift shop where you can buy Pabst merchandise.
There’s both indoor and outdoor seating at The Best Place, so stop by on a sunny morning for a cup of cold brew. Later in the day, The Best Place serves beer, wine and spirits. Of course, you’ll find Milwaukee classics like PBR and Schlitz on the menu.
The best places to drink in Milwaukee
Let me start this section by saying I’m not a cocktail or high-end bar guy. I’ve always been drawn to dive bars, breweries and other “low key” drinking establishments. So, these are the types of establishments that make up the majority of the places on this list — don’t worry, I threw a few curveballs into the mix too.
Just Arts Saloon
181 S 2nd St, Milwaukee, WI 53204
Just Arts was truly the height of the dive bar scene in Milwaukee. It’s run by Art — a friendly gentleman who lives upstairs from the bar itself. If you’re traveling solo, don’t expect a quiet night. He’ll tell you great stories about his life and the bar itself and introduce you to regulars.
Drinks are cheap and there’s enough free popcorn for the whole bar. It doesn’t have a full food menu, but there is a small kitchen where Art will fry you up a quick snack if popcorn isn’t your thing.
438 S 2nd St, Milwaukee, WI 53204
Zad’s is another local dive on the city’s near west side. There, you’ll find Milwaukee beers and a lively crowd that’s eager to teach you how to play bar dice — I’ll leave the specifics to them, but just be prepared to buy a round of drinks for your new friends if you lose the game.
The staff is excellent too. In a crazy small world event, the bartender working when I visited was from the same Chicago suburb as I am. He told me that the bar is popular with the weekend morning crowd as it opens at a crazy early 6 am. Of course, you can (and probably should) go later in the day, too — maybe make it your post-brunch hangout.
2417 N Bartlett Ave, Milwaukee, WI 53211
I met a friend and former coworker at his local bar, Champion’s Pub, on the north side of the city. It’s in a large space with a huge backyard, where everyone seems to know each other. When I was there, many locals were hanging out in the bar’s backyard and watching a baseball game. You’ll find an endless selection of local beers on draft and no shortage of bar games to keep you entertained.
1872 N Commerce St, Milwaukee, WI 53212
Lakefront Brewery is an iconic Milwaukee craft brewery that can be found all over the Midwest. Its flagship brewery on the Milwaukee Riverwalk has a huge indoor beer hall and a large outdoor space with open seating and a separate bar. I wasn’t able to get a seat inside, but the outdoor area was lively and had a great view of the surrounding nature.
310 E Chicago St, Milwaukee, WI 53202
The Outsider is a rooftop bar on top of the Kimpton Journeymen hotel in the city’s Historic Third Ward neighborhood. It attracts a lively late-night crew and serves everything from specially crafted cocktails to wine to craft beers. The view of the city is great, and the rooftop is lined with fire pits and endless outdoor seating. It’s a little bit expensive, but the fast service and great drinks make it worth a stop.
These were a few of my recent discoveries and favorite places to eat and drink in Milwaukee. By no means an exhaustive list, it should still help steer you in the right direction. I’m excited to return to the city in the future and add even more great eateries and bars to my list.
Feature photo by Andrew Kunesh/The Points Guy.
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